Communication Stars Childcare © Images Courtesy of BC Family Hearing Resource Society
41 years of making futures bright
The ability to communicate in multiple languages has become an increasingly valuable skill. However, for Deaf and Hard of Hearing children (D/HH), acquiring this skill can pose unique challenges and requires a specialized approach.
BC Family Hearing Resource Society (BCFHRS) has a long and rich history of providing a wide range of specialized services and community capacity-building activities to D/HH children and their families.
BCFHRS is the largest or-ganization that provides early intervention services that families can access across British Columbia, Yukon, and Northwest Territories. Families can access speech, language, and communication services out of any of the four centres—Surrey, Vancouver, Victoria and Kelowna—as well as in the comfort of their
Building Bright Futures
In September 2021, BCFHRS took a remarkable step forward, opening a unique bilingual childcare: Communication Stars, the first of its kind in Western Canada. The Communication Stars childcare is a licensed facility that operates out of the Surrey Centre and welcomes all children, regardless of their hearing levels.
“We envisioned a bilingual childcare for children wherein teachers can model two languages and children are able to observe and learn from each other,” explained Dr. Noreen Simmons, Executive Director at BCFHRS. “A strong language foundation is critical, especially in the early years of a child’s life. Having a facility that has a social group setting together with individual communication intervention services is key to optimizing a child’s language skills.”
What sets Communication Stars apart is its unique approach to early childhood education. The childcare employs a bilingual and bicultural framework, incorporating both English (spoken and written) and American Sign Language (ASL) into its instructional methods. This ensures that children attending the program receive exposure to two languages, enhancing their communication skills and expanding their cultural horizons.
“We chose Communication Stars because our desire was for our hearing son to improve his ASL to communicate with Deaf extended family members,” shared a Communication Stars parent. “We were so thrilled to see him gain confidence in his sign language skills—not just vocabulary, but facial expressions and ASL grammar as well. It was awesome for him to learn from both Deaf and Hard of Hearing staff and to watch how his overall language and communication improved. I have been so impressed with Communication Stars in how well they communicate with parents, prioritize health and safety, and value the child’s whole learning experience.”
Inclusivity in Action
One of the remarkable aspects of Communication Stars is its inclusivity. Unlike other programs that require prior ASL exposure, this childcare welcomes children without any previous experience in sign language. This creates an equal playing field where all children can learn and grow together, regardless of their background or abilities.
“It is a pleasure to be part of a childcare program that provides flexible language opportunities for children,” said Charmaine Francis, Daycare Manager, Early Interventionist and Speech Language Pathologist. “Whether their family uses American Sign Language, spoken language, or a combined use of visual and spoken language at home, Communication Stars’ bilingual design lays the foundation for each child to develop into a confident communicator.”
Another essential facet of BCFHRS is that the staff are not only certified and trained to work with young children, but many also have personal experience with different hearing levels. The specialized team is a mix of D/HH individuals, bringing a broad range of experiences to share with our children in a bilingual environment. Together they have created a strong curriculum that encourages individual growth and development while building social and communication skills.
Julia Szefer, an Early Childhood Educator and graduate from Gallaudet University who works at the childcare, shared that her first language was ASL, and the chance to work with children at Communication Stars is even more meaningful because of it.
“I am in a unique ASL-friendly environment where children, parents, and teachers have the wonderful opportunity to learn and use ASL as one of their languages,” she said. “I feel fortunate to be able to work with these children where I use my native language.”
Children aged thirty (30) months through kindergarten entry are eligible to attend the program that operates Mondays through Fridays, 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
“When our daughter turned three years old and learnt her mother language (Farsi), we decided to send her to childcare. As a family receiving services from BCFHRS, we were thrilled when we found out that BCFHRS has started its childcare for children with special needs. Even though it was too far from us, we decided to send her to Communication Stars as it gave her the opportunity to learn ASL in addition to learning English. The acoustic environment in addition to the trained, caring and kind teachers provided a pleasant experience for our daughter and created an excellent opportunity for her to learn new things. We were so satisfied with this situation that we even moved to a closer place so that our daughter could commute more easily. We would like to thank Charmaine and all the lovely teachers who patiently and calmly support children in the daycare.”—Communication Stars parent
If you are interested in more information about the programs and services, contact Dr. Noreen Simmons, Executive Director at BCFHRS: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 604-584-2827 ext. 223.
BC Family Hearing Resource Society is the largest not-for-profit organization in British Columbia serving children who are deaf and hard-of-hearing, aged birth to school-entry.